Good morning, do I dare say finally some winter temperatures up here in the Northwoods!?!? I know most people prefer a mild winter but it has not been good for ice fishing. I actually saw photo evidence from a customer who’s UTV went partially through Teal lake last weekend traveling over a same area he had fished the week before that. All of the snow we have gotten has really done a great job at insulating the slush layer underneath it and provided weak spots in what we have thought was good ice. So even though its now cold (well below freezing the next 15 days) it still may not be completely safe out on the lakes. Make sure to check spots even if you have been on them already!!!! More anglers have been out so reach out to buddies or guides or any of the local bait shops to check on ice conditions. Staying on the snowmobile trails until you get close to where you want to fish is ideal as those are packed down and frozen hard. A little PSA and may sound redundant, but always an important topic!
Northern pike–Tip ups rigged with shiners/walleye suckers in and around shallow weed beds bays should still be holding northern pike. Work edges of weed beds where they transition to deeper water in the bay or out into the main lake. Setting up on points or neck downs can work great as well.
Walleye–Most anglers are jigging walleye up right now, although I know a few that are still getting some on tip ups as well. Jigging spoons with some flash/noise are the ticket to calling in big walleye. Blade baits with a lot of vibration will also catch aggressive fish. If they get finicky go more subtle with a flutter spoon or work a dead stick rod. Tip ups rigged with suckers will also catch fish looking for and easy meal. Look for fish a bit deeper than the northern both on structure and where the bottom transitions from hard to soft on most lakes.
Crappie–I have reports from multiple anglers that they are finding crappie suspended in deep water. Deep is relative on all lakes, but fishing the basins on whichever lake you are on is a good place to start. Wax worms tipped on tungsten jigs or jigs tipped with crappie minnows seem to be the two most popular ways to fish them. They will also smash the smallest size jigging raps, tikka minnows, and baits like Kenders T-rips, however jigs seem to always produce fish.
Perch–Perch could be working out into the basins more as well. I don’t get a lot of reports on perch as there aren’t many great perch bites in our area. My guess would be to work basins in the same way as you would crappie, but use smaller spoons and baits with more flash as perch are generally more aggressive.
Bluegill–Bluegill will likely be relating to weeds and shallow water. They will be feeding on bugs in these weeds and matching small jigs to mimic these will produce big gills. Tip jigs with waxies or small plastics that move in the water column to put more fish on the ice.
I’m hoping this cold snap helps freeze out some of the slush layer on the ice and builds some more ice underneath. Should make the second half of the ice season easier to get out and fish!!! Have a great weekend and we will talk soon.